Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Gospel of Matthew: Each Temptation Building on the Previous One

Matthew 4:1-11

All of the devil's temptations are adapted based on Christ's answers. Each one is an attempt to divert Jesus from suffering and obedience.

I can't recall specifically where I learned that Jesus' refusals are all given in quotations from the Book of Deuteronomy. His tests resemble those of Israel when they were wandering in the desert. So his triumph over temptation is in direct contrast to the failures of the Jewish people in the wilderness. This is something that the Jews of Jesus' time would have picked up on right away.

Of course, for us the three lessons of the temptations are the basic ones we struggle with always. Who do we trust? And who do we worship? Do we put ourselves or God first?

As a side note, I especially like Jesus' expression in the engraving below. He is serene in his knowledge, in his power, in who he is.

Christ is tempted by Satan.
Engraved drawing by Jacob de Wit after Peter Paul Rubens.
The focus [of the first temptation] is on the identity and power of Jesus. ... The temptation is not really about food but about turning Jesus away from the difficult road that the Father wills for his Son (26:39). His mission is not to serve himself by exploiting his divine prerogatives but to serve others by a life of heroic sacrifice (20:28).

Jesus responds with the words of Deut. 8:3: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the word of God." The statement is a short lesson on God's priorities for our lives, teaching us that physical needs are not our greatest needs.


Immediately one notices how the tempter adjusts himself to the one being tempted. Jesus has quoted the Bible to express his commitment to live by God's word, and so the devil turns to the Bible to press his second attack. ...

The second temptation is essentially a challenge to the trustworthiness of God. Satan wants Jesus to subject his Father's promises to verification. ...

Jesus strikes back with words from Deut. 6:16: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. The original context of this passage is the rebellion of the exodus generation in the wilderness [at Massah where] ... some demanded God give proof of his presence among them.


Jesus has refused the offer to serve himself rather than his mission from, the Father and has declined the challenge to test the Father's goodwill. Now he is asked to repudiate the Father altogether by surrendering himself to the lordship of Satan, the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31).

Still Jesus remains unmoved. He responds, "Get away, Satan!" and drives the devil off with the words of Deut. 6:13: "The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve." The context of the quotation is instructive, for it prohibits the worship of "other gods" (Deut. 6:14). Bowing before Satan would be an act of idolatry, and Jesus will have no part of it.
Quote is from Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. This series first ran in 2008. I'm refreshing it as I go.

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